CAR cap­i­tal rocked by deadly clashes France ends mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic’s cap­i­tal was rocked by deadly overnight clashes as France’s de­fense min­is­ter was due yes­ter­day to for­mally end a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion there, hail­ing it as a “suc­cess”. Lo­cal sources said about 10 peo­ple had been killed in a set­tling of scores be­tween armed groups Sun­day night in Bangui’s restive Mus­lim PK5 neigh­bor­hood.

The toll had yet to be con­firmed by the UN force MINUSCA-which will be alone in fac­ing the mili­tia ter­ror­iz­ing civil­ians now that France is end­ing its San­garis op­er­a­tion, be­gun three years ago to halt mass killings in the for­mer French colony. Res­i­dents were con­tin­u­ing to flee the area around PK5 yes­ter­day, fear­ing fur­ther vi­o­lence. A he­li­copter from the in­ter­na­tional force cir­cled over the city from dawn, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent said.

A fresh wave of blood­shed has been shak­ing CAR, spear­headed by ri­val Mus­lim and Chris­tian mili­tia groups, and many Cen­tral Africans are wor­ried about the de­par­ture of French troops. The clashes came just af­ter French De­fence Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian ar­rived Sun­day to close the San­garis mis­sion, launched at the end of 2013 to pre­vent a feared geno­cide af­ter pres­i­dent Fran­cois Boz­ize was ousted from power. “France will never aban­don Cen­tral Africa,” Le Drian vowed in an in­ter­view with RFI ra­dio and France 24 tele­vi­sion as he ar­rived.

‘We stopped mass killings’

Ear­lier this month Le Drian told the French par­lia­ment that the San­garis mis­sion, backed by a UN man­date, had been “a suc­cess”. “We stopped the mass killings... al­lowed a process of in­ter­com­mu­nal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, the re­con­sti­tu­tion of the state, a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and leg­isla­tive elec­tions,” he said. Around 350 French troops, equipped with ob­ser­va­tion drones, will re­main present in CAR, around 100 of them de­ployed with the UN, the French govern­ment says.

Two days be­fore Le Drian’s ar­rival, 25 peo­ple were killed in clashes in the cen­tre of CAR, in­clud­ing six po­lice of­fi­cers. The govern­ment de­nounced the vi­o­lence as a “Machi­avel­lian plot de­signed by the en­e­mies of peace”. Le Drian was due to ad­dress par­lia­ment as well as meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Faustin-Ar­change Touadera and of­fi­cials from MINUSCA, which still has some 10,000 troops on the ground. UN vice sec­re­tary gen­eral Jan Elias­son is also ex­pected in Bangui from Tues­day for a two-day visit, MINUSCA said. One of the world’s poor­est coun­tries, CAR has scarcely emerged from the chaos of civil war which erupted in 2013 fol­low­ing the over­throw of Boz­ize, a Chris­tian, by Mus­lim rebels from the Seleka coali­tion who in­stalled their own leader. Armed groups have flour­ished over the years given the weak­ness of the state. Among the main cul­prits are fac­tions from the most­lyMus­lim for­mer Seleka rebel force, and the Chris­tian “anti-Balaka” mili­tias, a ref­er­ence to the ma­chetes used by the rebels. There are also vig­i­lante groups made up of no­madic, pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim Fu­lani herders, as well as oth­ers spe­cial­iz­ing in high­way rob­bery. The con­flict in CAR since 2013 has left thou­sands of peo­ple dead and forced 4.5 mil­lion to flee their homes.— AFP

LUND, Swe­den: Pope Fran­cis kisses a child dur­ing his visit in Lund yes­ter­day. Pope Fran­cis ar­rived in Swe­den yes­ter­day on a his­toric mis­sion to pro­mote rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and unity be­tween Catholics and Protes­tants, riven by Chris­tian­ity’s nearly 500-yearold schism. — AFP

BANGUI: United Na­tions peace­keep­ers pa­trol out­side a vote-count­ing cen­tre for the pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in this file photo. — AFP

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